Well, we’re back from our Minister’s Conference at Sidmouth and it was a great three days in many ways – the place has something to do with it – a beautiful coastline, which is, for me, somehow more special in February than July – it’s certainly less crowded. From what I’ve heard and read so far, people enjoyed and sensed God’s blessing in various ways, so it sounds like it went well.
The thing which came back to me, however, the morning after the conference before, was a throw-away line in my own contribution before bread and wine - when I said the Baptist Union is designed to be more Wikipedia than Oxford Concise. What did I mean? Did I mean it? Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a queue of people asking me those questions, but they’ve come back to me.
Wikipedia is a recent, current and post-modern phenomena and has the characteristics of movement all over it. The Oxford Concise, however, has been around a long time, it’s part of our heritage, history and traditions. Whilst editions are always up-dated and reflect the nature of the shifting use of language, it smacks of an institution. Both are concerned about definitions – Wikipedia goes beyond dictionary into encyclopedia, I still use both.Jimmy Wales, who was the catalyst behind Wikipedia says: ‘I couldn’t write an encyclopedia by myself, from the very beginning, Wikipedia was a community. The main thing about Nupedia, which was the precursor to Wikipedia, was that is was a failure. Essentially, the design of Nupedia was very top-down, in the sense that there were seven-stage review processes, committees for this thing and the other, and basically very little work ever got done. I always say, yes, Nupedia was a failed model, but the one thing it did for us was create a strong sense of community that got Wikipedia off to a strong start.’ ‘As a catalyst, it’s all about letting go and trusting the community.’ I just wonder whether we’re developing a stronger sense of community among many of our Ministers because similar things are going, but we still use the Oxford Concise as our main source of reference and, as a result, don’t feel we can write anything in, which will make us part of the movement?